“Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story”
“I WAS APPOINTED CALIPH BY ALLAH! I AM A DIRECT DESCENDANT OF THE PROPHET!”
“OUSAMA BIN LADEN WAS A FALSE PROPHET. I AM DIFFERENT. I AM ALLAH”
“OUYAY IXNAY ONTDAY LESSUNYAY OUYAY ANNAWAY IEDAY OWNAY!”
Candace Cantinflas-Schnarlbrecher reporting from Ain Al-Baida, Syria. With Ogden Orffe as photographer and Lucy Abu-Twaddle, interpreter.
It had to happen sooner or later. With amazing swiftness, the news began to spread and the facts inevitably unraveled. It was common knowledge that a new star was rising in the East, but who could it be? There was talk in Aleppo that an American rock star, an “Alwees Breezely” would rise up from the rubble of Saif Al-Dawla and bring a thousand years of bad music to the Middle East. Others speculated that an ancient Canaanite bas relief and words just translated by Italian archeologists at Ras Shamra that gave it all away: it was a man dressed in seemingly gaudy formal wear with a candelabra on his piano. Underneath his shape were words: L B R C I. Salvatore Duncio of the Italian team immediately declared that it was: “LIBERACE”. Could it be that the new Caliph could be a dead rock star or an unctuous, gay piano player?
The shockeroo came today when the Great Divan of the Even Greater Caliph Haroun accepted our request for an interview. We made it to a town called ‘Afsheeka near the Turkish-Syrian border and were then transported with blindfolds to the lair of the new Caliph. Here, we sat in anticipation as the Great Caliph Haroun Al-Maroun made his way into the salon of a home our hosts claimed was “liberated” from its “infidel owners”.
We all felt we were in the presence of a preternatural being as he sat down on an ottoman with his legs crossed. Before he donned his ceremonial turban, we could see on his forehead four “zeitounas“, or bruises evidencing the perfervid beating of the head against the floor while praying. We thanked him for this opportunity to interview his Holiness and he graciously thanked us for thanking him. I remarked that his turban closely resembled a cap worn by many children in the United States without mentioning a certain cartoon character who made the attached ears famous. He told us he received the cap from a British officer who converted to Islam which made the headdress even more holy “seeing it was gifted by a white devil”.
MNS: Your Holiness. How much territory do you now rule in Syria as part of the new Caliphate?
CALIPH: I think we have started at about a square mile.
MNS: May I ask where exactly is your square mile.
CALIPH: Today, it’s here just 23 kilometers from Aleppo. Tomorrow, it might move. Who knows?
MNS: Do you think President Assad will recognize your new Caliphate even as he wages war against your holy warriors?
CALIPH: He is a fool for fighting us; for we are few but supported by Allah. He has many soldiers but he cannot claim support from the Great One. Even the infidel newspapers write that he is “surrounded”, “besieged”, “encircled”, “embattled”, “enfeebled”, “bedeviled”, “circumnavigated”, “he is killing his own people”, “he must step down”, “he must go first”. (smiles) I like that. What more can I say.
MNS: But, what will you do when his army arrives tomorrow, as is predicted, to blow your Caliphate away?
CALIPH: We will move it to a place where his army is not located. I mean, how much clearer can I be?
MNS: We understand that a Caliph, by tradition, must be in a line of heredity from the Prophet himself.
How do you fit into that lineage?
CALIPH: (Becomes angry) I’m more related to the prophet than those miserable Hashmites (of Jordan)! My mother is directly descended from Abd-Manat’s chambermaid, Dolly the Abyssinian. What greater proof than that? I mean, what is this? Some Gitmo interrogation?
MNS: Well, what about Guantanamo Bay? Are you doing anything to help your co-religionists to escape or obtain release?
CALIPH: I had many meetings with American spies in Turkey. They won’t release my people until Assad goes. Well, that could take a really long time! I mean, I could be killed!
The Caliph’s Salafist advisors express encouragement to the young leader as he addresses our concerns.
MNS: We interviewed Ayman Zawahiri two weeks ago in some cave in Pakistan. What’s your take on him as a potential competitor?
CALIPH: No Caliph in history has ever been an Egyptian plastic surgeon. It would be sacrilege.
MNS: Where are you from, by the way?
CALIPH: Promise you won’t laugh?
MNS: (coyly) No, Holy One.
CALIPH: I’m from Dearborn, Michigan. (Leans forward and whispers furtively at MNS). I am Shi’ite. But don’t tell them or they’ll behead me. These guys are real freaks.
We will have Part Two of our interview next week.